Last night's loss to the San Diego Chargers was the Indianapolis Colts worst home loss of the Peyton Manning era. You have to go all the way back to when Lindy Infante was the head coach in 1997 to remember a home loss as bad as this one. When you think about that, it's quite amazing. Indy is typically amazing at home, especially in primetime.
But last night, the failures of Bill Polian this past off-season, the crippling injuries, and the inherent weakness of this team were all exposed.
The person who will get all the blame for this loss is Peyton Manning, just like last week. Though, unlike the Patriots game, Peyton was indeed the main reason why the Colts gave up an early 7-0 lead. By throwing four INTs in the game, including two returned for touchdowns, what Manning did (in the immortal words of Jim Mora) was give the game away. No matter who you are; no matter how great a player you've consistently proven yourself to be, when you throw four picks, with two returned for touchdowns, you DID NOT help your team win.
No one knows that better than Peyton. From Bob Kravitz this morning:
On the first interception-turned-touchdown, he failed to see San Diego linebacker Kevin Burnett falling into pass coverage. "Just kind of lost him (Burnett) there for a minute,'' Manning said. "Poor decision and certainly, to turn it over backed up, that's something I have to avoid. . . . Poor throw, poor decision.'' On the second one, he got whacked by the Chargers' relentless pass rush, and the ball fluttered into a defender's waiting hands.
As Kravitz accurately scribes, sole blame for this game should no hang on Big P. He played poorly, yes. But, when you ask a 34-year-old quarterback to cover-up the obvious weaknesses with the team's offensive line and the running backs, eventually the man who strives to 'play perfect' will have a few 'human' games.
As with all things, Peyton is a true leader. He'll man up and own the loss. He won't toss his jersey in the stands like Vince Young, or retreat from the media like a coward ala Randy Moss. Big P will stand before everyone like a professional, take his lumps, and then go back to being the greatest ever. Part of being great is owning up to your screw-ups.
This issue with this team isn't Peyton. The issue is with the rest of this poorly built, injury decimated team.
My observations from the game:
- Take away Manning's two INTs for touchdowns, and the Colts still lose. The offense didn't score in the second half, and the running game generated 24 yards on 18 carries for an embarrassing 1.8 yards a run. Seriously, how can the backs and the o-line call themselves 'professionals' when they only generate 1.8 yards a rush? Embarrassing.
- Please, don't tell me 'the defense played well.' They surrendered 103 rushing yards and a TD to Mike Tolbert. Mike friggin Tolbert. This defense is awful. Yes, they played well in the redzone, and they limited San Diego on third down (0-8), but when you are letting Mike Tolbert run for 4 yards a pop every time at home, you suck.
- Something positive? Pierre Garcon had a good game. He caught every pass throw at him.
- Another positive? Jacob Tamme and Blair White. Both are tough kids. Both have stepped up big time since Dallas Clark and Austin Collie went down.
- More negatives? Reggie Wayne was terrible last night. Too many drops.
- Once again, the Colts ask Peyton to put the ball up over 45 times. He's on pace to set the single season attempts record. That's not a good thing, folks.
- San Diego was 1-5 in the redzone. However, they converted all five of their field goals and scored a TD. That's 22 points; far too much to give up at home. At some point, your mutli-million dollar defense needs to be good enough to prevent teams from getting into the redzone. With the injuries this offense has, the defense cannot afford to play bend-but-don't-break. They have to get stops BEFORE the opponent crosses the 50.
- Not gonna kill Javarris James for that fumble. He was trying to make something happen. If other players on defense had this mentality, maybe the Colts win the game. In two games, the Colts have zero takeaways. Not good.
- While the defense still continues to frustrate me, Philip Wheeler played himself a fine game last night. He had 8 tackles last night.
- Yes, Jeff Linkenbach is bad as a guard. But, come on. His 'replacement' is Mike Pollak, a guy who has been benched twice in two years in favor of undrafted rookies. Link is bad. Pollak is worse. At what point do we see Jacques McClendon or Jaimie Thomas play?
Look, I could go on and on with negative observations after last night's loss. As the Colts are fond of saying, you're never as good as you look or as bad as it seems. In general, that statement is true. But, the reality is the Colts are 1-3 in their last four games, with their one win against the lowly Bengals at home.
Injuries have played a part, yes. However, those same injuries have exposed several bad decisions made by Bill Polian, particularly when it comes to the draft.
- With Joseph Addai going down, you'd think Donald Brown (2009 first round pick) would step up. He hasn't.
- With the defense searching for options to rush the passer, you'd think Jerry Hughes (2010 first round pick) would see the field. He hasn't.
- With the secondary sustaining so many injuries, you'd think Kelvin Hayden (five-year, $43 million contract in 2009) would step up. He hasn't.
- With Bill Polian criticizing the offensive line after the Super Bowl and cutting guard Ryan Lilja for seemingly no reason whatsoever, you'd think someone like Jamey Richard, Mike Pollak, or anyone would fill the void. They haven't.
We're not one to mince words around here. We love the Colts, but we call things as we see them regardless of whether or not it 'hurts people's feelings' or upsets Colts fans who prefer to keep their collective heads in the sand. This is a poorly built football team. Even without the injuries, this is not a contending club. Not even close.
Maybe things will turn around. Maybe Bob Sanders will return and everything will be rosy again. Maybe Collie and Addai will return and help Peyton and the offense score points.
But, right now things look bleak. Some major changes need to start happening soon if this team is to contend. If it can't content, I'd prefer they miss the playoffs. One-and-done gets you nothing. We've been there, done that. This team either contends for another championship, or the season is bust.